By ASHLEY AMASON
At the Oct. 7, 2008 regular Walton County School Board meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jim McCall presented a financial deficit summary to the board. The initial budget deficit is $3.1 million. Additionally, there will be a four-percent reduction, totaling $550,000, in state funding; a two-percent holdback in state funding, totaling $275,000; a possible 1.5-percent drop in property tax revenues equaling $700,000. “Therefore, the minimum budget deficit,” McCall said, “is $5,275,000.”
With such a large deficit, the fund balance as of June 30, 2008 was $12,272,000. The projected fund balance by the same time next year, June 30, 2009, is $6,997,000.
Board members and McCall discussed the measures other counties have taken in order to deal with the current financial crisis. “Many counties have cut pay, laid off, closed schools, sent administrators to classrooms to teach,” McCall told a saddened board.
“What I believe we need to do,” McCall offered “is look at everything to find out where we can save money and develop a target that should be able to sustain us for the next two to three years until revenues pick back up.” According to McCall’s financial summary, revenues are estimated to reach the levels they were at three years ago (2005-06) three years from now (2011-12). Vice Chairman Bill Laird deemed that projection “very optimistic” considering the current Wall Street meltdown.
Although 87 percent of the school board’s budget is employees’ salaries, board members unanimously agreed laying off employees will be a strongly contested last resort.
In other news, Robert Carroll, civil engineer for the new Walton High School, attended the meeting to discuss boundary issues with owners of property adjacent to Hunter’s Ridge Road (next to the new high school). One owner, Terry Pilcher, and his attorney, Bruce Bowman, challenged the survey Carroll presented to the board, claiming there has been up to a 13-foot encroachment onto their property. Carroll, along with Supervisor of Operations Wayne Miller, said the encroachment was unintentional and is at most two feet. Carroll said he has gone through the city to obtain and approve all surveys and permits.
“There’s a significant encroachment that’s got to be addressed. It’s got to be resolved,” Bowman told the board. The encroachment consists of a berm, a bank of dirt formed when clearing land to protect against extreme runoff or erosion.
Bowman and Pilcher argued that their survey shows a different property line, and thus a much larger encroachment. Carroll and the board agreed to accept the survey Pilcher and Bowman provided, and requested their permission to enter the property to move the dirt back onto the school’s property, thus resolving the problem. Bowman offered that his client was willing to sell the property to the school board, but was not giving permission for anyone to re-enter the property.
An almost hour-long debate circled between Bowman, Pilcher, Carroll, and the board, returning to one question, summarized by Chairman Barnhill, who said, “The board has agreed to accept your [Bowman and Pilcher’s] survey and, with your permission, we will enter your property to remove the berm and keep it on our side of the property line… Carroll has said once the construction is complete, there’ll be nothing on the adjacent property. That resolves the issue. What is the problem?”
After reiterating that his client was willing to sell the property to the WCSB, Bowman and Pilcher finally agreed to the resolution to remove the berm.
As the meeting came to a close board members (minus Mildred Wilkerson, who was absent) unanimously approved the adoption of a state policy related to bullying and harassment.